At first, there were only the photos of Croatian president Kolinda Grabar Kitarović, dressed in characteristic and impeccable red and white sports jersey, and then her optimist, cheerful, almost euphoric statements on the great and important win of the handball national team of her country and their qualification for the fight for medals. However, almost right after the aforementioned triumph, the President said something else that had nothing to do with this major sports competition. That after returning to her homeland (the championship in which the president cheered the national team took place at the end of January in Poland), she would demand the convening of the National Security Council and propose the immediate dismissal of the current head of the central Croatian intelligence service Dragan Lozančić.
The news was not really surprising. Some countries, with a so-called “young” democracy, have a practice, after the change of executive power, of reaching into the work of the intelligence services and dismissing their heads regardless of the duration of the mandate. The neighbouring state has appointed a new prime minister and his new office precisely during those days. It seemed that Grabar Kitarović was only a spokeswoman for the new government’s decision.
Two facts were contradictory. First, that an influential member of the government party and the expert in the field of structure, history and practice of the functioning of Croatian intelligence services, Dr. Miroslav Tuđman, was approving and praising Lozančić in October 2012, when the Zoran Milanović’s government appointed him the intelligence chief. Another fact that I somehow did not find coinciding with the president’s announcement was legislation, that is, regulations that specifically lay down that the proposal on replacement must have a co-signer, the prime minister. Tihomir Orešković was almost restrained in his commentary. He only said that Lozančić would have to go if it had been proved that he had violated the law.
The execution of the president’s statement was not understood anymore. And it became even less understood at the moment of the grand finale. More precisely, it was found out what was the key reason for the replacement of the head of the intelligence service. More or less accidental tapping of certain presidential telephone conversations.
However, before we get back to the aforementioned tapping, let us go back a little, some twenty-five years ago. At a time when the then president of the HDZ convened the first congress of the party in Zagreb. Of course, he would have not been able to carry out this organizationally without a silent agreement with the then minister of internal affairs of the former Socialist Republic of Croatia, Vilim Mulc. The aforementioned Mulc allowed the opening of borders, primarily airport Pleso, to a series of individuals who had had a complete ban on entry to Croatia, with arrest warrants waiting for them.
Gojko Sušak, Tuđman’s acquaintance, was among the persons who had arrived, from his travels across Canada and the United States. Later the most influential minister who was collaborating in the preparation of congress documents even at that time. The first congress was a complete triumph and the announcement that the party would be a complete winner of the first parliamentary elections. I stop only at the part that is essential for understanding of the current president’s announcement of the dismissal of head of the intelligence service. The first congress of HDZ, as Dr. Tuđman was repeatedly saying later, had a message. In fact, it showed the power, I repeat after the late president, of the united local and emigrant Croatia, quite in the spirit of Luburić’s idea of reconciliation of all Croats, those at home country and those in exile.
Tuđman formed a new secret service in the spirit of such calming down and the reconciliation understood in that way. When I read the memoirs of the “old fox”, an intelligence service agent Josip Manolić, about that time, it can be understood that he gathered, in the Office for National Security, primarily people of trust and knowledge, quite in accordance with the doctrine of reconciliation. So, primarily those whom he knew based on their work from the security intelligence services in the former country. The people of the old school and the old practices. However, that was too strong a challenge primarily for those who had arrived from abroad and got a job in related, primarily military intelligence service. A new war between the Croatian intelligence agents started, called the conflict between the “partisans” and “Ustashas” by informed chroniclers.
At the same time, influential Sušak called back to his homeland Dragan Lozančić as well, who studied and lived in US at that time. At first, he was some type of a government designated person for foreign journalists (it was during the war), and he was later transferred to the ministry of defence where he was hierarchically promoted to the assistant minister.
The war between the intelligence services after the death of the first president was virtually ended by the Chief Prosecutor of the International Tribunal for war crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia, Carla del Ponte.
Dr Ivica Račan, the prime minister after 2000, failed to calm them down. He repeated, more or less disappointed, that the problem of politicization of intelligence services, violations of human rights and the law could only be solved by appointing new heads of services. That it was a much bigger matter. That there was an organization establishing outside all laws, which, however, had the power of intelligence, money and media influence. And was able to reach out for power.
Carla del Ponte wrote, in a much more pragmatic way, confidential reports on the so-called Croatian Mreža (Network), which allegedly allied the most influential individuals of different services, their hierarchical counterparts from criminal underworld, as well as influential politicians. She was convinced that the Mreža effectively protected and hid, with its power, all the suspects she wanted to bring before the court in The Hague. General Gotovina as well. That is why she requested from the Račan’s successor, the new prime minister, Dr. Ivo Sanader, as a condition for her positive report on Croatian European progress, to reorganize the services and to unite them. Also for the reason of joining together the information on the fugitive generals.
The current deputy prime minister and the head of the strongest ruling party, Tomislav Karamarko, has taken over the task. First, there was a political agreement on the co-supervision and agreed decisions on personnel organization of the services, the head of state and the prime minister, and then organizationally to a merger. Without the execution of this task and consequently fulfilling the prosecutor’s arrest order, Croatia would remain outside the membership of the European Union.
When the government was taken over by Zoran Milanović after the new elections, he appointed Lozančić as well. The man with the support of the late Sušak, the support of Dr. Miroslav Tuđman, also the then president of the parliamentary committee for the supervision of intelligence services, educated in America, dismissed in an unusual way from the position of assistant secretary of defence at the time of Račan’s government, and then at service in the American educational centre in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
This is one of the reasons why the announcement of the president Kolinda Grabar Kitarović about his dismissal was not so self-understood as it had seemed at the time of the handball triumph. For both the various supports to Lozančić and his right to complete his mandate, as well as the legal requirement for the prime minister’s countersigning of such a decision.
Now we can go back to the president’s reason for placing such a request. One of the legally permitted sponsors of her election campaign was also Zdravko Mamić. The owner of football club Dinamo Zagreb and the person whose word is crucial and decisive in Croatian football. Due to various manipulations with football money and lack of understanding that the politics is no longer the thing that determines the required amount of tax to be paid, such was in Tuđman’s time. Mamić is under investigation. I already wrote about the reasons and the background, some time ago, for the Saturday column of the magazine “Delo”. It is now confirmed that Mamić has been under the monitoring of the security services since last year. At that time, he used to hang out and talk with the president of the country as well. And they caught their conversation in one of these wiretappings. It is not clear when and by whom was Grabar Kitarović informed about this. Whether even by Lozančić himself, in an informal conversation, or by Chief State Prosecutor Dinko Cvitan, when he received the decision on initiation of the investigation. However, this is not the key problem. Apparently, the then Prime Minister Zoran Milanović was informed about everything, therefore on tapping of the president as well. And all this during a hot pre-election period.
Milanović says that only three persons know the truth about the tapping – himself, the president and the head of the security services. And that he would take it with him to the grave as well. The only problem is that someone will have to disclose it, at least partially, before the required dismissal.
This is how the limited modest response of the new prime minister should be understood.